Monday, November 6, 2017

Our city does not NEED another major sports league

Melisa Smithson
by Melisa Smithson - The leadership of our city is once again trying to sell the taxpayers on the latest and greatest ‘must have’ - Major League Soccer, and they want it ONLY on the Fairgrounds property. They also want the taxpayers to co-sign for the deal for the billionaire owners, the Ingram’s, who could get any financial institution to loan them the money. In return, the city will give them 10 acres of prime real estate at the Fairgrounds for making the deal. Also, they want to take away 30 acres for a ‘Fair Park’ with seven soccer fields, a dog park, and greenspace.

If you don’t know already, a prominent family of the times donated the Fairgrounds to the State to generate revenue to hold a State Fair each year. In the Private Acts of 1923, a Fair Board was established, giving them ultimate power to excise a tax, borrow money, whatever it had to do to generate revenue to hold the yearly State Fair. When the Metro government was formed, it adopted the Private Acts as part of their Charter.

During Karl Deans reign in 2010, the city wanted to do away with the Fairgrounds to build a mix-use facility with parks, affordable housing, retail (sound familiar) – all part of a ‘Master Plan’. A small group of us got together to form a coalition and were able to stop the city from bulldozing the Fairgrounds, assembled a petition drive, and placed a referendum on the May 2011 ballot, which 72% of the voters of Nashville voted to keep the Fairground’s existing uses and require a super majority vote of 27 another referendum for any changes to the existing uses or demolition of buildings.

Fast forward to today, they are presenting the same ‘Master Plan’, only disguising it as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to bring Major League Soccer to Nashville. When we decided to bid for an NFL team, we had a chance to vote for it. The city is trying to sell you that our opportunity is now and only now for MLS. This is not true. They can apply again within two years, but they say that would be much harder and competition would be further along in the bid process, and we must act now, sounding like a typical sleazy used car salesman.

This deal has BAD written all over it for the taxpayers and citizens of Nashville: 

  • Why are we co-signing for bonds for $250 million for the owners? 
  • Why are we having to give away land for the deal? 
  • Why the Fairgrounds when the city owns so much more property? 
  • Why no ‘Plan B’ if the Fairgrounds cannot accommodate? 
  • Why do we need to have a MLS Stadium, while we haven’t paid for the Titans Stadium or Sounds Stadium? 
  • Why put our city, and state, at risk for a lower bond rating? 
  • Where is our money from all the investments already made in downtown? 
  • Why are we not seeing a return in our surrounding communities from the Sounds or Titans or Predators? 

This deal is not good for Nashville in so many ways. It will cannibalize the existing uses of the Fairgrounds, and the city will be on the hook if the sport does not do well (we are already on the hook for the Sounds, Preds and Titans). It’s like our city leaders are addicted to development and the latest and greatest ‘must haves’, but our city has a lot of ‘need to haves’ we must address. Our surrounding communities have been ignored and in need of sidewalks, public safety, public works, schools, to name a few. Let’s start spending our resources on our neighborhoods and not downtown, and not to MLS. We can skip this one, focus on our communities, and stop spending our money! 

Melissa Smithson is owner of  Smithson Marketing Solutions and Chair of the Davidson County Republican Party. She has been a leader in the effort to save the fairgrounds. 

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